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Published B&D Article

Published B&D Article

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Published by Akif Syed

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Published by: Akif Syed on May 01, 2009
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06/14/2009

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BUREAUCRACY AND DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN
Saaz A. Khair
Pakistan is a typical transitional society that is yet to fully arrive in the 20
th
century. Notwithstanding misleading superficialities like its nuclear prowess or ballisticmissiles. the country is still largely a feudal and tribal society which is self-contentedly basking in its easy-paced and change resistant agricultural life-style. In terms of Rostov’s stages of economic development it is still preparing for take-off. With limitedindustrial or commercial employment opportunities for its rapidly growing population(almost 70% of which is below 25 years of age) disguised unemployment or under-employment (made possible by small subsistence agricultural holdings) is the norm.Given the ample supply of time people are very fond of verbal exchanges of all kinds:from the ubiquitous chat to the equally common emotionally charged religious debatesand political discussions. Thus the nation appears to be one of talkers and idlers.Strange as it may seem to the uninitiated foreigner, for a nation with as high arate of illiteracy as Pakistan has, the citizens are far more well informed andopinionated that could be expected. The Pakistanis have opinions about issues onwhich even the supposedly well aware in the developed world are likely to fail us. One possible reason for this may be that Pakistanis like many of their fellow countrymen of the LDCs are confronted with real life issues of hunger and disease, shelter andemployment, bureaucratic indifference and political corruption at a much more basicand personal level than citizens in the developed world.Generally fond of talking as Pakistanis are, some topics are national favourites.While accurate statistical data may not be available with regard to what Pakistanis liketo talk about most, from general experience it can be said that politics, governmentactivities and the full scope of officialdom command great public interest when itcomes to a chat in the early hours at the office, at the all-too-usual gossip sittings or debates in colleges. Perhaps, in other countries which have similar conditions of excessive government and unstable politics, and where people have plenty of ‘do-nothing time’ the two “cracies” of the “bureau” and “demos” are also hotly debatedissues.But whether it is Pakistan or any other nation state, these two powers - of government officials and public representatives - appear to be intricately linked andessential parts of the whole that is a modern state. In countries where truerepresentative governments exist, the permanent government officials or bureaucrats(i.e. government functionaries whose employment is not connected with the change of government) are necessarily subservient to the constitutional dictates of electedrepresentatives. In such countries the issue of functional dichotomy posed by MaxWeber with regard to bureaucracy as being either a functional organ of the state or thegovernment does not arise because long traditions of representative and constitutionalgovernance have settled basic jurisdictions of the state and governments. Called by anyof the varying terms used to describe them - civil servants, public servants, governmentofficials, state functionaries or bureaucrats, these persons owe their basic loyalties tothe state but work for the governments in power which have come into existence andremain in power through constitutional processes. Day to day work is carried out
 
according to legislated rules and established SOPs and not the idiosyncratic whims of  politicians in power.However, in countries which do not have the good fortune to be ruledaccording to the true wishes of their people or even laws which have been otherwiselegislated the situation becomes very different. It is here that government officials mustmake their own decisions as to who is their employer, the state or the government in power, that is if there is any difference between the two. In many cases, the de facto powers of apparently democratically elected politicians also far exceed what could beconsidered the norms of good governance. Usually the law of survival dictates that thedifference between state and government is put aside for the time being and the personor group in power be accepted as the full and only arbitrator of rightful government.There is yet another situation that of countries where political instability has been the rule. Here dictatorship and democracy have played hide and seek and thelatter has not been able to take root in the national ethos. Here the permanentgovernment employees, especially those in offices which have a significant bearingupon national policy making and its execution on a day to day basis, see themselves asa constant factor that provides continuity from one period to another. However, as can perhaps be expected, the bureaucrats in such political situations go beyond merely providing the much needed continuity in an unstable political environment, and tend todirectly or indirectly provide the missing links in the political leadership. The Pakistanisituation and that of its civil servants resembles this last case most closely. Indeed aswill be borne out later, this situation may be equated to a zero-sum game where a gainof power and prestige by politicians has traditionally meant an equal and opposite loss by bureaucrats and vice versa.Pakistan has been a classic example of Third World political instability andchaos, so much so that leading scholars have chosen to name their books on thecountry as
The Enigma of Political Development 
(Ziring) or 
 From Crisis to Crisis
(Feldman). Fifty years into its existence the roles of the three groups that have run thecountry - the politicians, soldiers and bureaucrats have yet to be finally decided. Therole of the people of Pakistan in its governing has, unfortunately, been fairly minimal.Even in the limited periods when democracy has existed it has been of varietiesrestricted either by prevalent socio-political conditions that do not provide equality of opportunity for the constituents or by manipulative politics of dictators anddemagogues garbed in the camouflage of electoral popularity. Of recent the judiciaryhas also become fairly involved in national politics, at least in the public perception, if only by way of its interpretation of the Constitution which has at times bounded onlegislativeThe massive illiteracy combined with a non-proportional system of representation has meant that democratic governments do not enjoy a true mandate of the people. A weak party system, has led to floor-crossings being the norm (until the present parliament which is restricted by a anti-defection law) which has in turn led toweak oppositions. Governments have been placed in power with as little as a third of the total popular vote. In other situations “non-party elections” have led to an almostimmediate formation of “the government party” allegedly prompting one provincialChief Minister to claim that he had never been guilty of the rather unbecoming conductof floor-crossing as he had always been in one party i.e. the government party.
 
Pakistan, like most other countries born out of former colonial empires has hada very bureaucratic past. Even when the areas now constituting the country weregoverned as part of local empires, the rulers were very distant from their subjects andthe only channel bringing these two together were the “royal servants.” As a reminder of that period, the two most common terms for bureaucrats in the Pakistan nationallanguage Urdu continue to be
naukar-e-shahi
(royal servants) and
afsar-e-shahi
(royalofficials). Indeed, the coming of the colonial power made little or no difference for thegreat majority of the people. Rudimentary democratic practices did exist in local tribaland peer groups but democracy in the modern sense of a system of government by peoples’ representatives chosen by universal suffrage was a new concept that was paradoxically introduced by alien rulers who had come a long way to set up an empire.Considerations like the great distance to the imperial capital and high cost of  bringing and maintaining expatriate officials as well as general political expediencymeant that the new rulers required local mediators to execute the policies developed bythe home country for driving maximum benefit from the territories under their control.Thus, developed the British Indian bureaucratic state which one author has called “oneof the most remarkable and successful bureaucracies developed in any country.”[1] Atthe centre of this bureaucracy was an organisation called the Indian Civil Service(ICS). The members of this organisation, which was termed variously as a “governingcorporation” and “the steel frame on which British rule in India rested” were perhapsthe best known of all bureaucrats anywhere. Patterned on the Guardians of Plato andthe Mandarins of China, these officers became known as the “heaven born” and the“kept class”. This group was specially created to serve as the executors of Whitehall’scommands.Initially closed to Indians, the ICS in time became the instrument of gradualchange through which the colonial power wanted to introduce reform aimed at a finalrealisation of the goal of responsible self-government in the “crown jewel of the BritishEmpire”. In 1915, Indians comprised only five percent of the ICS, but the variousreform commissions assigned the task of enhancing this proportion envisaged that intime at least fifty percent of the senior government employees of British India becameIndians. This figure that came close to being achieved until it was pre-empted by theoutbreak of World War II at which time some forty percent of ICS officers wereIndians. But while these officers were nominally Indian, they were more of “BrownEnglishmen” than Indian both in overall appearance and mental outlook by virtue of having been brought up in the iron-cast mould of their masters,This system of Indianisation of the civil service came about at a time whenanother equally remarkable modern concept was gaining popularity with Indians: their first flirtation with the Western democracy and the processes of self government.However, the British did not proceed with the developments in Indianisation of ICSand introduction of representative self-government hand in hand. The reasons for thisimbalance in developing a home-grown bureaucracy and home-grown breed of democrats were easily understandable. For one, howsoever benevolent colonialiststhat the British may have been (compared to their Dutch, French and Italiancontemporaries), they were still an alien power holding on to a vast area and population for the primary intent of achieving their imperialist designs. Secondly, theIndians were far from being a homogeneous community in which democracy could be practiced as in the West: they were badly fragmented on religious, caste and ethniclines in which the possibility of a religious or ethnic majority permanently dominating

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